Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors in Southwark have called on the borough's Labour administration to initiate compulsory purchase order proceedings to ensure the full-scale redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.
According to a recent report on property website Costar, St Modwen – who own the shopping centre in a joint venture with Salhia Real Estate – have delayed their plans to strip back the existing building to its concrete frame and extend it with new shops and homes.
As recently as last December, St Modwen said it intended to submit a planning application during 2013.
"We cannot have more delay to this scheme, which many local residents feel is already well overdue," said Cllr Tim McNally, finance spokesman for Southwark Lib Dems.
"It looks very much like St Modwen don't want to play ball and get the new centre underway, in which case the council needs to force its hand and issue a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to make it happen."
Southwark Council's regeneration agreement with Lend Lease for the Heygate Estate site includes provision for a compulsory purchase order on the shopping centre site if agreement cannot be reached with St Modwen.
Under the terms of the deal, Lend Lease will underwrite the council's costs if it seeks a CPO to enable the shopping centre to be redeveloped.
Cllr McNally added: "A well-designed and welcoming new shopping centre would improve the area hugely, and be a central part of the redevelopment of Elephant & Castle. It is not good enough to simply give the existing site a lick of paint."
Southwark's regeneration plans for Elephant & Castle had previously envisaged the wholesale demolition of the covered shopping centre and its replacement with an open-air shopping street linked to Walworth Road.
Cllr Fiona Colley, Southwark's Labour cabinet member for regeneration, said: "We will not take any lectures from Southwark Lib Dems who had eight years to agree the regeneration of Elephant & Castle but instead ran around like headless chickens.
"So far, in our discussions with St Modwen, we have not been presented with a plan for the shopping centre that we believe delivers the right solution for local people or the area especially concerning appropriate levels of affordable housing.
"We are pushing for a better deal for the shopping centre, and just as we delivered on our promise to get the regeneration of the Heygate moving again after eight years of Liberal Democrat dither and delay, we will do the same here."
The future of the shopping centre is also tied up with negotiations with Transport for London over the layout of the adjacent road junction and the expansion of the Northern line underground station to cope with the extra passengers likely to be attracted by new developments in the area.
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